The Virtuous Cycle: George Hoganson on Bio 2652 & 2658, PEMRAP I & II

George Hoganson was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up in the Chicago suburbs. He completed his undergraduate degree at Loyola University in Chicago. After graduation, he spent the nearly a decade working on a number of clinical longitudinal studies on aging, and leading a non-profit organization focused on solving homelessness in the Chicagoland area. He then earned his PhD at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

“I’ve always been motivated to help find solutions to the problems people face and my parents’ work served as my inspiration. My father was a pediatric geneticist with training in clinical, biochemical, and molecular genetics. My mother was a nurse and social worker. Their curiosity, humility, compassion, and the urgency with which they worked to help others during their worst moments taught me that we can all have a positive impact on those around us,” Hoganson explained.

Now, he gets to explore positive impact through teaching PEMRAP (Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research Associates’ Program) at WashU. PEMRAP’s mission is to provide undergraduate students an opportunity to witness the clinical aspects of medicine in a high-volume pediatric emergency room while also providing insights and knowledge of clinical research that can inspire the next generation of physician scientists, something Hoganson refers to as a “virtuous cycle”. From how patients and families experience illness, to the value of teamwork in a healthcare setting, the course provides students a window into the health of patients and the community. Students gain real world clinical research experience by recruiting and enrolling patients in research studies being carried out in the emergency department. They learn from faculty and principal investigators in the field through a series of lectures.

Students also participate in student-initiated clinical research studies taking place in the emergency department, led by PEMRAP Chiefs. Chiefs are students that completed PEMRAP I, then applied for the opportunity to take on a leadership role in the course.

Through mentoring with the course directors, PEMRAP Chiefs develop their own research projects. From generating the scientific question to be explored, to designing and implementing the project, to writing and publishing the manuscript, students lead and gain experience at every step of the process.


As a course co-director, Hoganson’s goal is to have PEMRAP function as an incubator in which undergraduate students learn the skills necessary to develop as physician scientists, as well as help solve problems facing patients and our community through student-led research. He also believes strongly that recruiting more undergraduate students to partake in clinical research via PEMRAP and other avenues such as Bio 500, the Biology Department’s Independent Research Program, brings value to students and patients.

Students can receive credit for conducting research designed by other undergrads under Hoganson’s mentorship. Former PEMRAP student Emma Romanowsky evolved her PEMRAP experience into a Bio 500 research project on the intersection of patient care, the business of medicine, and patient satisfaction.

She submitted an IRB (Institutional Review Board) application and created a project with Hoganson. Current PEMRAP students are helping to implement her project, simultaneously learning how to recruit and enroll patients in studies.


“PEMRAP offered me the unique opportunity to contribute to medical research while simultaneously interacting with a wide range of patients. After completing two years as a PEMRAP student, I had a research question of my own that related to the Emergency Department (ED) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) and decided to pursue this query formally through Bio 500. My relationship with the program’s faculty and my familiarity with the ED at SLCH made the process of developing a research process simple. I learned how to write an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, design data collection methods, and adhere to ethical standards of research, all under the mentorship of Dr. George Hoganson. My study, which aims to understand why parents and families visit the ED for non-emergent care needs, collects data from surveys that current PEMRAP students administer. Through PEMRAP, I gained the access to discover my research interests and the tools to pursue it,” Romanowsky said.

The virtuous cycle also comes into play through undergrad interaction with Principle Investigators (PI’s). PI’s present their research to the class, providing insight and expertise. In turn, they have student volunteers help enroll patients in their clinical studies.

“PEMRAP is a tremendous opportunity to be exposed to research in a clinical setting. It is unique in that the students get to take an active role in collecting data for meaningful research projects, and also be able to observe patient care in a busy Emergency Department. I personally have been exposed to many more opportunities for growth than I would have had outside the program and have made connections with faculty and other students that have propelled my research and clinical interests forward,” student Nicholas Agostin said.

To learn more about PEMRAP, visit